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glutes

Why You Should Do Butt Stuff

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Why You Should Do Butt Stuff

It’s Monday and you’ve already come up with a huge win for the week; you got up early to go to the gym. You’re not Arnold, but you’ve been to the gym before and you know that Monday means chest day; it’s pretty much an international holiday, right? But who decided you have to bench on Monday? Or any day! The beautiful thing about the gym is that you can do whatever you want (as long as you’re safe and considerate of others)! So why not try something new this morning and work out your butt? It’s really a great idea, let me tell you why.

For those of you who didn’t already know, your butt is actually the biggest muscle group in your body, comprised of the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and the gluteus maximus. This means that you should be training it! And not just to get the boys or girls to do a double-take. Functionally, your glutes have a lot of responsibilities and if you neglect them, you’re going to have a bad time in general and an even harder time being an athlete. Let’s go through just a few of those responsibilities here.

1.    Your glutes are the primary movers in hip extension. What’s that you ask? When your hip angle (between your trunk and your leg) opens up. Ninety-nine percent of people utilize this movement pattern every single day; it’s called walking. Any walking or running you do is going to be initiated by hip extension and if your glutes are weak other muscles (specifically your lower back and hamstrings) will have to compensate and that’s when you start to feel tightness, aches and pains. Nobody wants that.

2.    Your glutes also externally rotate the leg; if running and walking are extension patterns in the sagittal plane of motion (moving forward and backward) external rotation is what allows you to take a step in the frontal plane (moving side to side). The point is. That without your butt you don’t move very well.

So now that you know why you need to workout more than just your quads and hammies on leg day, and also that leg day can and should happen more than once every two months, how do you do it? I want to share with you some of the best booty building exercises around starting with the king of them all; the hip thrust.

Now I know, everyone says that if you want to build your butt you need to hit your squats and get your weight up. However, according to Bret Contreras, PhD, CSCS, an EMG study that compared muscle activation in the glutes between squats and hip thrusts yielded some interesting results (you can see those results broken down here and the actual study here). Hip thrusts are where you put a bar across your hips and push it up by squeezing your glutes and hamstrings. It can be uncomfortable sometimes in more ways than one and maybe draw some strange looks but it’s worth it, here’s why.

To make a long story short, when you are in the concentric portion of the squat (the part where you stand up to complete the rep) maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) of the glutes is at between 80-120%, the highest it will get during this movement overall, the mean activation of the glutes (over the entire squat) is only at about 50-70% because the glutes are fairly inactive during the majority of the movement. Now, in the hip thrust MVC of the glutes can reach between 120-200% and mean activation is typically around 100%. So…do your hip thrusts, but don’t leave your squats out to dry either; they’re still important, just not as much as you may have thought when it comes to the booty.

Your glutes are the biggest muscle group in your body. Skipping leg day isn’t doing you any favors, even if your goals don’t revolve around a rounder backside. Functionally, the glutes provide a foundation along with the core for all athletic movement. So, go on, the awkward eye contact is okay, have some fun and build those buns!

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How to Pick The Right Shoe for Working Out

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How to Pick The Right Shoe for Working Out

A question that I’ve gotten from athletes over the years is "What type of shoe should I purchase for running or for working out?" First off, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am by no means a podiatrist. However, I do have experience assessing people’s musculoskeletal imbalances, and I can prescribe corrective exercises to address these issues.

I’ll start with the most common dysfunctions that could improve by having the proper footwear. It's relatively common to have mobility limitations and insufficient movement patterns at the ankle joint. One of the more common issues I see is excessive foot pronation (feet collapsing inward) (as seen in the photo below) and lack of dorsiflexion (inability to flex the ankle).

People with flat feet or low arches will usually pronate their feet, causing them to put a majority of their weight into their arch. This can create a chain reaction of unwanted stresses up the body - up the “chain”. However, the reverse is also true, which means that if your hips are not stable and aligned, they’ll cause issues down the chain, and your knees and feet will begin to compensate as a result. Here’s a perfect example: as a result of the feet collapsing inwards, the knees will also collapse inwards. This can cause various knee issues, knee pain, and can make it more difficult to externally rotate the hips. The muscle that’s responsible for externally rotating our hips is our glutes/butt. If our butt isn’t in the game when we do lower body movements, then we’re in danger of not just having a flabby butt, but also potentially suffering from overuse injuries due to compensatory patterns.

Lack of dorsiflexion, or the lack of flexing at the ankles, is usually attributed to tight calf muscles - gastrocnemius and soleus being the biggest culprits. This issue is also usually coupled with the feet everting, or turning out, as a compensation for not being able to flex at the ankles.  Dorsiflexion allows for more freedom up the chain to flex the knee and hip during lower body movements such as squats and lunges. Besides exercises to help improve these two common mobility issues (I could write an entire blog post about these exercises), the right shoe can help solve this. That’s what we’re here for, right?! We went to our neighborhood shoe store, BAIT in the Mission to show you some examples of what to look for in a shoe.

FOR THE RUNNERS

First off, let’s start with those of you who run. I suggest getting a gait analysis at a local running shoe store like A Runner's Mind or Fleet Feet. You could also ask one of our P4L coaches to assess your overhead squat and single leg squat. From there, they’ll be able to give you feedback on the type of shoes that you may benefit from, depending on your musculoskeletal imbalances. One recommendation I could give without any assessment is this: if you’ve got flat feet, or if you put weight into your arches, get shoes that give you arch support. Make sure to do some research online beforehand to ensure that you’re getting the shoe that’s best for you.

 
This shoe is ideal for running, because it is a lightweight shoe. The difference between this and a cross-training shoe is that there's no lateral support, meaning there's minimal traction at the sole. I personally like a minimalist shoe, because it strengthens your feet while running and feels closest to a bare foot.

This shoe is ideal for running, because it is a lightweight shoe. The difference between this and a cross-training shoe is that there's no lateral support, meaning there's minimal traction at the sole. I personally like a minimalist shoe, because it strengthens your feet while running and feels closest to a bare foot.

 

FOR THE STRENGTH TRAINERS / CROSS-TRAINERS

For those of you do a variety of activities, and especially if you strength train, then please do yourself a favor and get cross-training shoes. I’ve seen countless people over the years strength train or do functional fitness classes in running shoes. Two reasons why this is not a good idea:

  1. Running shoes don’t have ankle support, so when performing lateral movements, you’re going to be more vulnerable to ankle sprains.
  2. Running shoes don’t provide as much heel elevation or do as good of a job at preventing pronation as much as cross trainers do. Cross trainers will lock your foot in place and assist in ankle flexion - however, that’s not the best reason to get cross trainers.
 
This shoe gives you more ankle support than a running shoe. The elevated heel makes it easier to flex in the ankle, thus helping you squat easier. You'll have increased stability. In addition, it has heel support and traction so that you can do lateral movements.

This shoe gives you more ankle support than a running shoe. The elevated heel makes it easier to flex in the ankle, thus helping you squat easier. You'll have increased stability. In addition, it has heel support and traction so that you can do lateral movements.

 

I will say that I do prefer a minimalist shoe, or even working out barefoot if you’re solely strength training; the reason being that you have more feedback and contact with the ground, thus giving you more natural ability to move your foot freely and to generate force into the ground with your entire foot.

Thanks for listening and I hope this helps!

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